After it appeared in the Museum of Failure in 2017, photos of the "Colgate Lasagna" began to go viral on Twitter and Reddit—not to mention in marketing seminars. But did it ever really exist?by Harry Harris / January 27, 2020 / Leave a comment
Failure is relative. For me, egg poaching pans—the kind with circular inserts and the little egg holding devices—are failures. The eggs come out oddly uniform. The white doesn’t fully encircle the yolk. They are firm and plasticky, not soft and yielding. They are, at best, steamed.
And yet, these pans are widely available and probably present in a good proportion of UK kitchens, taking up cupboard space because they’re so difficult to stack (seriously, bin them). As a product, against all greater wisdom, they have succeeded.
You certainly wouldn’t find one in The Museum of Failure, Dr Samuel West’s showcase of failed innovations that opened in Helsingborg, Sweden, in 2017. It is not on the shelf alongside the Google Glass or Harley Davidson’s perfume. It doesn’t wrestle for your attention next to the Twitter Peek or Coca-Cola Blak. And it could not even attempt to pull your eyes from the weirdest, most ill-conceived product in all the museum: Colgate Beef Lasagne.
The story, widely reported, goes like this: in the 1980s, Colgate veered wildly from their lane when they attempted to enter the lucrative frozen food market in the US with a range of frozen dinners, including this Italian classic. The product failed, and Colgate never spoke of it again. When the museum launched, news outlets leapt upon the mistake, illustrating their articles with the picture of a garish yellow box and Colgate’s instantly recognisable logo above a pretty standard-looking dish. “Yes, you read that right,” said the Mirror. “Yup, that Colgate,” said Food and Wine. “Goodness knows why they decided to branch into food,” opined Heart FM. Reading through the clippings, Colgate’s faces must have been red. Or they would have been—if the lasagne had ever existed in the first place.
If you actually went to the Museum of Failure, you’d see that the veracity of the lasagne is disputed by Colgate themselves. On the sign beside the exhibit, named as Colgate frozen dinner rather than Beef Lasagne specifically, it says: “When international press wrote about the Museum of Failure, a legal representative called and sternly informed us that the company ‘has no recollection of a Colgate lasagna.’ Either Colgate has a bad memory, or the Museum of Failure got pranked by some branding consultant who started an urban legend years…